What Got You Here Summary, Key Lessons & Ideas

3-Line Summaries:

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith is a book that talks about how the habits and behaviors that make you successful in one stage of your career might hold you back as you try to move up.

Goldsmith explains 20 common habits that can get in the way of further success, like not listening well or being too negative.

The main idea is that to keep growing in your career, you need to be aware of your behaviors, listen to feedback from others, and make changes when needed.

Quote of the Book:

“People who believe they can succeed see opportunities where others see threats.”

Marshall Goldsmith

About the Author:

Marshall Goldsmith is a famous coach and writer who helps people become better leaders. He’s known for teaching folks in big companies how to improve their skills and do well in their jobs. Goldsmith believes that changing small habits can lead to big improvements. He says it’s important to know yourself, listen to feedback from others, and take action to become better. He’s written many popular books about leadership and personal growth, like “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” and “Mojo.” Goldsmith also travels around the world giving talks and advising companies on how to succeed.

Broad Summary:

Imagine you’re climbing a mountain. You’re strong, you’re determined, and you’ve used the same climbing tricks your whole life to get this far. But as you reach higher ground, you realize those old moves just aren’t working anymore. That’s the idea behind Marshall Goldsmith’s book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”

Welcome to the fast-paced world of business, where success is like a golden ticket. With a mix of cleverness, laughs, and stories that hit close to home, Goldsmith invites you on a journey—a journey of discovering yourself and becoming even better than you already are.

Imagine this: You’re doing well at work, but there’s a nagging feeling that something’s holding you back. Goldsmith nails it right at the start—he says those very habits that got you where you are might just be the things stopping you from going further. It’s like having a rock in your shoe that slows you down without you even realizing it.

As you flip through the pages, Goldsmith points out twenty habits that could be the culprits. From always needing to win to not really listening when others speak, he lays them all out in plain language. Each habit is like a puzzle piece, and by the end, you’ll see how they fit into your own life.

But fear not!


Goldsmith doesn’t just drop this bombshell and leave you hanging. Oh no, he’s got your back. He hands you a roadmap—a guide to ditching those old habits and grabbing hold of the success waiting for you. At the heart of this journey is feedback—the kind words (and sometimes not-so-kind ones) from friends, mentors, and family that can kickstart your growth.

Goldsmith makes it crystal clear: change isn’t a walk in the park. There are dragons to slay—like the fear of failing or the comfort of sticking to what you know. But fear not, brave reader! Goldsmith shares tales of heroes who faced these dragons and came out victorious, showing you that you can too.

One chapter that really hits home is all about the power of saying sorry. Goldsmith spills the beans on how apologizing—really apologizing—can mend bridges and build trust. He even gives you a step-by-step guide, so you’ll never stumble over your words when you need to make things right.

But wait, there’s more! Goldsmith isn’t done yet. He introduces you to the concept of “feedforward”—a magical potion that lets you focus on the future instead of dwelling on the past. With this potion in hand, you’ll be unstoppable, ready to take on whatever challenges come your way.

As you turn the last page, you’ll feel like you’ve just finished an epic quest. Goldsmith leaves you feeling like anything is possible, that you’re not just stuck where you are—you’re on the brink of something amazing. “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” isn’t just a book—it’s your ticket to unlocking a whole new level of success.

In conclusion, Marshall Goldsmith’s “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” is like a wise old wizard guiding you through the maze of habits that might be holding you back. With stories that hit close to home, practical advice, and a sprinkle of humor, Goldsmith helps you slay those dragons and become the hero of your own story. So whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, grab this book and get ready to level up in the game of life!

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Best Lessons from the Book:

Lesson 1: Self-awareness is Key

Picture this you’ve got a magic mirror that not only reflects your physical appearance but also your actions and behaviors. It’s like having a window into your inner self, allowing you to gain a comprehensive understanding of who you truly are. 

According to Marshall Goldsmith, this level of self-awareness is crucial because it provides you with a roadmap for your growth journey. By being aware of your habits and behaviors, both good and bad, you can chart a course towards self-improvement. 

To elaborate further, consider this scenario: if you know that you tend to become impatient when things don’t go your way, you can take steps to cultivate more patience. 

Similarly, if you tend to interrupt people when they’re speaking, you can make a conscious effort to listen more and interrupt less. Self-awareness is like illuminating yourself with a light, revealing the areas where you need to work on and improve.

Lesson 2: Feedback is Fuel

Imagine you’re driving and your GPS tells you where to go. Feedback is like that; it’s guidance from others that helps you navigate your journey. In his book, Goldsmith emphasizes the importance of listening to what others say about you. Whether it’s your coworkers, boss, or family and friends, their feedback can be valuable. 

For example, if your coworker tells you that you could be more organized with your tasks, that’s a sign that you need to work on your time management skills. Or if your friend mentions that you sometimes come across as too serious, you might want to lighten up a bit. Feedback is like having a team of helpers pointing out the potholes in your road so you can avoid them and keep cruising toward your goals. 

To sum up, self-awareness and feedback are like your trusty guides on the journey of life. By understanding yourself better and listening to what others have to say, you can steer yourself towards success and become the best version of yourself.

Lesson 3: Be Open to Change

Picture yourself on a road trip, cruising along and suddenly finding a detour ahead. That’s just like life—full of unexpected twists and turns. Marshall Goldsmith says in his book that change is like this detour. It’s going to happen whether we’re ready or not. Just like trying a new flavor of ice cream, being open to change might bring a delightful surprise. Even if you always go for vanilla, giving chocolate a try could lead to a new favorite!

Goldsmith tells us that being open-minded and willing to try new things is super important for growing and doing well in life. Sometimes, it means stepping out of our cozy bubble and trying something different. It’s like picking up a new hobby or learning a new skill. It might feel scary at first, but it could open the door to exciting adventures and opportunities we never knew existed!

Lesson 4: Apologize When Necessary

Imagine you accidentally bump into someone on the street. What do you do? You say sorry, right? Goldsmith talks about how saying sorry and owning up to our mistakes is like magic. It’s like saying, “Oops, my bad. I messed up, and I’m really sorry about that.” Apologizing isn’t always easy, but it’s a powerful way to make things right and build trust with others.

Goldsmith reminds us that being humble and taking responsibility for our actions is super important. It’s like admitting when we’ve made a mistake and saying, “Hey, I’m accountable for what happened.” By saying sorry from the heart, we show that we care about the relationship and want to fix things.

Lesson 5: Focus on the Future

Imagine you’re driving and taking a wrong turn. Do you keep looking back at where you went wrong, or do you focus on finding the right path ahead? Goldsmith introduces us to this cool idea called “feedforward.” It’s like getting directions for where to go next instead of dwelling on past mistakes.

Instead of getting stuck in the past and replaying our blunders over and over, Goldsmith says, “Let’s look ahead!” It’s like asking for advice on how to become a better driver instead of beating ourselves up for getting lost. By asking others for tips on how to do better in the future, we set ourselves up for awesome changes and growth.

So there you have it! These lessons from “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” remind us to embrace change, say sorry when we mess up, and keep our eyes on the road ahead for exciting adventures!

Lesson 6: Choose Your Battles Wisely

Consider a situation where two kids are arguing over who gets to use the swing first. Not every fight is worth having, right? Well, that’s what Marshall Goldsmith is saying in his book. He tells us that not every argument or disagreement is worth getting into. Sometimes, it’s better to let things go and focus on working together.

Goldsmith warns us about always wanting to win. It’s like being so focused on being right that we forget about teamwork and cooperation. Instead, he encourages us to prioritize working together and helping each other out. It’s like realizing that sharing the swing is more fun than fighting over it!

Lesson 7: Listen More, Talk Less

In conversations, it’s essential to be an attentive listener. Rather than waiting for your turn to speak, actively engage with what the other person is saying. Goldsmith underscores the significance of genuine listening, emphasizing its role in fostering deeper connections and understanding between individuals.

Imagine you’re chatting with a friend, and they’re telling you about their day. Are you listening, or are you just waiting for your turn to talk? Effective communication isn’t just about speaking—it’s about listening too. Goldsmith says that truly hearing what others have to say is super important.

He reminds us to be present in conversations, like really paying attention to what the other person is saying. It’s like giving them the spotlight and showing that you care about what they have to say. By listening more and talking less, we can build stronger connections with others and understand them better.

Lesson 8: Celebrate Others’ Success

When someone achieves success, whether it’s a friend, coworker, or family member, it’s important to genuinely celebrate their accomplishments. Goldsmith highlights the positive impact of acknowledging and cheering on others’ achievements. Doing so cultivates a supportive and encouraging atmosphere, strengthening relationships and fostering camaraderie.

He says that acknowledging and cheering on others’ successes helps build strong friendships and creates a positive vibe. It’s like being a cheerleader for your friends and colleagues. By being supportive and encouraging, we can create a work or school environment where everyone feels valued and appreciated.

Lesson 9: Stay Humble

Even amidst personal achievements or successes, maintaining humility is crucial. Goldsmith advises against allowing accomplishments to inflate one’s ego. Instead, he encourages individuals to recognize their limitations and treat others with respect and humility. This attitude fosters a sense of humility and openness to learning from others.

He says it’s important to recognize our limitations and treat others with respect. It’s like being down-to-earth and not letting success go to our heads. By staying humble, we can keep growing and learning from others, no matter how successful we become.

Lesson 10: Take Ownership of Your Growth:

Imagine you have a garden, and you want it to grow big and beautiful. Who’s responsible for making that happen? You are! Goldsmith says the same thing applies to our personal and professional growth. It’s up to us to take charge and make it happen.

He encourages us to be proactive about our development, like seeking out opportunities to learn and improve. It’s like being the captain of our ship and steering it toward success. By taking ownership of our growth, we can reach new heights and become the best versions of ourselves.

In the journey of personal and professional development, individuals must take an active role in their growth. Goldsmith emphasizes the importance of proactively seeking opportunities for learning and improvement. By taking ownership of their development, individuals can steer themselves toward success and realize their full potential.

Best Key Ideas of the Book:

1.   Moving forward in your career may need to change how you work.

2.   Hearing what others say about you helps you improve.

3.   Saying sorry when you make a mistake helps people trust you more.

4.   It’s good to try new things and not always stick to what you know.

5.   Working together is better than trying to win all the time.

6.   Listening is just as important as talking in conversations.

7.   Cheering for others when they do well make everyone happy.

8.   Remember to stay humble and treat everyone with respect.

9.   Don’t worry too much about mistakes you made in the past. Focus on getting better in the future.

10. Take charge of your learning and growth by trying new things.

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